KENNEWICK -- Kip Brown drove the U-17 Miss Red Dot to a third-place finish in the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup on Sunday.
But as far as his uncle, Nate Brown, is concerned, it was better than third.
"We won," Nate said. "We were 5 mph off the pace of the faster guys. Kip grabbed the inside lane on those guys (Dave Villwock and Steve David). We kept the boat in one piece.
"My goal this year is to be a strong third place," he said.
So far, so good.
Considering where the boat and team came from, it's a pretty great story.
Nate Brown, himself a long-time successful hydroplane driver, decided in 2006 to put a group of friends together to design, build and race an unlimited boat.
The name of the team was called Our Gang Racing.
It was supposed to be a low-key operation, and when the boat was finished, Nate brought it and the team to the Tri-Cities for the 2007 Columbia Cup.
Not to race though. He set up camp next to the Ellstrom team and wanted all of his new guys to watch what other teams were doing.
Over the past few years, the team and boat has gotten better. They got a sponsor in Red Dot Manufacturing.
They qualified for Doha, Qatar, the last two seasons by making the top 10 in the high points standings.
They finished sixth in the standings in 2008, and eighth in 2009.
Coming into this weekend, the U-17 was the national high points leader.
"I think that's awesome," said Erick Ellstrom, team manager for the U-96 Spirit of Qatar, on Saturday.
And although the team heads to Seattle in second place after Sunday's Columbia Cup, the Our Gang Racing team knows it's having a great year.
"Hell yes. Absolutely," said Kip after Sunday's race. "This boat never gave me any reason to think it would be any better than last year."
But a simple thing as a fix to the boat's fin in the offseason has made the boat faster and easier to handle.
Now, Kip says, it's like driving a Cadillac.
"Previously, I needed help getting out of the boat after a race," he said. "I was wiped out. Now, I'm ready to go race right again."
And the entire team has a feeling that it's on a roll.
"The momentum is changing now," said Kip. "I feel good. The crew feels good. The boat is fast. There is a confidence I have never had in an unlimited."
And he's satisfied with Sunday's third-place finish.
"I can't complain," he said. "To be the best of the rest of the field is nothing to hang your head about. All weekend long we were better than a lot of boats."
In fact, Brown won all three of his preliinary heats this weekend, and is 5-for-5 in prelim heats this season.
The team is enjoying its run near the top of the standings.
"We're a strong second going into Seattle," said Nate. "If we could finish a strong second this season, that would be great."